Zimbabwe could soon approve construction of a large new tourist centre at Victoria Falls to cater to 120,000 visitors a year as developers denied allegations that the facility will be a gaudy theme park.

The US$18mil (RM67.74mil) park at the Unesco World Heritage site will boast a replica of an African village and will use exhibits to tell the story of the waterfalls known locally as Mosi oa-Tunya (the smoke that thunders).

Earlier reports had said the government planned a Disney-style development that would include a zoo and several hotels to cater for many Zimbabweans who struggle to afford the current upmarket accommodation on offer.

“It will be a giant village, African in design and style, showcasing village scenes, traditional customs and history,” said Dave Glynn, chairman of the developers Africa Albida Tourism.

“We are not building a zoo. We are not going to have animals in display cages. And this is not a theme park. This is strictly to tell the story of Victoria Falls.”

The 32hapark will have historical, cultural, wildlife and entertainment sections.

“It will portray the story of Victoria Falls from the very beginning – four million years ago – through history, people, plants and wildlife,” Glynn said.

“We have two dinosaur species that are significant in the global dinosaur story.

“The conservation awareness project is to help reverse the terrifying rate of extinction of animal and bird species.”

The park is expected to open in 2017 and employ 150 people.

“We received the Santonga Project concept paper and approved it as a development project,” Victoria Falls town clerk Christopher Dude said in a statement.

The park is now awaiting final approval after an environmental impact study. – AFP Relaxnews

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